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If Pharaoh could demonstrate such resilience for such an evil cause, how much more resilience must we demonstrate for good causes? No matter the challenges that life may thrust upon us, regardless of the difficulties we may experience, we cannot be deterred from fulfilling the purpose of our existence, by actualizing our inner talents, following the ways of our tradition, and doing good for good's sake.

Rabbi Allouche

“Who is wise? He who learns from everyone,” Ben Zoma, the Mishnaic Sage, teaches.

Indeed, every person possesses a spark of wisdom to share. Every creature of G-d has a Divine element that shines.

But if that is true: what can be learned from Pharaoh – the evil dictator who drowned Jewish baby boys, and enslaved our people with unfathomable cruelty?

In a powerful statement, the Kotzer Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Kotzk, revealed the answer:

“In truth, I admire Pharaoh,” he told his students. “The plagues kept coming, they became worse and worse, yet he never gave up. Furthermore, Pharaoh knew that, ultimately, he would be defeated. How can you overcome our Almighty God? Nevertheless, he persevered, with remarkable consistency.”

The message is profound: Pharaoh knew that his cause was lost. He further knew that refusing to ‘let the Jewish people go’ would bring upon him and his country utter destruction. Yet, he persevered with unwavering strength and unshakeable conviction.

This begs the question: If Pharaoh could demonstrate such resilience for such an evil cause, how much more resilience must we demonstrate for good causes? No matter the challenges that life may thrust upon us, regardless of the difficulties we may experience, we cannot be deterred from fulfilling the purpose of our existence, by actualizing our inner talents, following the ways of our tradition, and doing good for good’s sake.

This idea may also explain an astonishing phenomenon of nature. A cheetah can reach a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour, in less than four seconds. Gazelles, the cheetah’s favorite meal, can reach a maximum speed of 45 miles per hour, in just over five seconds. So why can’t cheetahs catch gazelles, each time they spring toward them? If they run faster than they do, they should be able to capture them with ease! Yet, they don’t.

The answer is telling: Cheetahs often fail to capture their prey because they don’t have Pharaoh’s drive. They give up too quickly. After approximately 50 seconds of sprint-running, they are exhausted, and they give up. Gazelles, on the other hand, can run fast for a very long period of time. True; they don’t run as fast. But their run, at a high-speed, is consistent. Their effort is resilient. And their instinct to survive and escape, elevates them about life’s daily challenges. And that is why they, more often than not, triumph.

Each and every one of us is called upon to be gazelles, not cheetahs; active participants in life, not passive spectators. We are summoned to take a stance for G-d and do everything in our power to better our surroundings, especially when evil so threatens it. We are asked to be lights unto our surroundings and unto the nations, and agents of kindness and goodness in our world.

So next time your mind is filled with doubt, and you ask yourself, “why should I get out of bed today?” or, “why should I come out of my comfort zone and make an effort to go to that event, or do this good deed, or smile at that person?” – remember Pharaoh and his relentless drive.

And know that G-d will await patiently – as He did with the Jewish people – until you respond with a committed heart, and an active hand, to actualize your purpose, and turn every moment into a Divine experience.

One reply on “What Dictators Can Teach Us About Life

  • Shoshana

    Beautiful Rabbi, but I just see one problem. Our laid-back, ‘lazy’ American society doesn’t exactly appreciate persistent people. We think they are high-strung, demanding, and even annoying. Our culture promotes mostly followers and those who go with the flow. Good for you for encouraging people to be persistent leaders who use their talents to consistently move forward, meet goals, and accomplish their mission in life, despite the pushback. One question though, how should persistent people deal with the rejection that constantly comes their way?

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